Endeavour series 2 DVD REVIEW

DVD: ★★★★

Extras: ★★★

THIS may be sacrilege, but I prefer Endeavour to Morse.

I suspect much of Morse’s renown and popularity are down to John Thaw’s unforgettable portrayal of the gloomy detective, but the character never developed during all the years he was on air. This was par for the course during the series’ run in the late 80s and early 90s. But modern series that have story arcs – anything from The Fall to Broadchurch to True Detective – have shown how much richer series are that don’t stay on a loop of same characters, same investigations every week.

Endeavour, the 1960s-set prequel, has the advantage of showing Morse as he develops and changes, and writer/executive producer Russell Lewis has demonstrated his skill and empathy in taking Colin Dexter’s creation and fleshing him out cleverly. Each series combines the whodunit format with a story arc about the outsider detective, this latest series following his return to duty following the death of his father and his own brush with death after being shot, along with his romance with his neighbour, nurse Monica (Shvorne Marks).

Shaun Evans has been excellent casing as the too bright copper, and Roger Allam – as Thursday, who has his journey in this series – is a terrific co-star. The films from ITV are lovingly shot and have a fine period feel.

This complete collection of series 2’s four films – Trove, Nocturne, Sway and Neverland – also comes with a modest couple of added extras that should still delight fans. There’s a 10-minute feature called Creating Endeavour – The Next Chapter of Colin Dexter’s Legacy, and Spires, Ashtrays, Quads and Pastels, a short feature about the filming of the drama in Oxford.

RRP: £19.99, Certificate:12, Discs: 2, Running time: 360mins. Available on Amazon

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Endeavour series 2, ITV, with Shaun Evans, Roger Allam PREVIEW

Pictured L-R: SEAN RIGBY as PC Strange, SHAUN EVANS as Endeavour, JACK LASKEY as DS Peter Jakes,ROGER ALLAM as DI Fred Thursday and ANTON LESSER as CH SUPT Reginald Bright.
Endeavour and the Oxford squad. Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★★

ITV: returns Sunday, 30 March, 8pm

Story: May 1966. DC Endeavour Morse returns to Oxford City Police after a four-month absence from duty. Reunited with DI Fred Thursday, still reeling from being shot and the loss of his father, the detective’s involuntary furlough has left him mentally wounded.

ENDEAVOUR was only meant to be a one-off to celebrate the Inspector Morse‘s 25th anniversary in 2012. But here he is back for a second series, following a hugely popular one-off and first series.

It’s been a clever reboot. The production is as good-looking and stately as ever, which the traditional Morse fans clearly adore. For the younger audience it has the sex appeal of Shaun Evans, giving a fine performance as the tortured bright-spark of a detective.

The conceit of Morse/Endeavour is that he is man who would never be in the police. He is too

 JESSICA ELLERBY as Diana.Endeavour 2 ITV
Diana knew the missing girl

intellectual, too cultured and aloof to fit in. He has few friends in the force (or outside), and as we prescient viewers know he is destined to never rise to a level in the force that his abilities deserve.

Thursday is worried about Endeavour

As Trove, the season two opener, begins, we encounter Endeavour back where he was in the pilot – wondering if the police service is the right career for him. It is four months after the traumatic events of the previous series when his father died and he was shot.

Yet he is immediately pitched into a brain-tease of a case that only he is equipped to unravel. During a street parade, a man plummets to his death from a council building. The dead man has multiple identities, but Endeavour works out who he is – and that this suspected suicide is not all it seems.

JESSIE BUCKLEY as Kitty Batten. Endeavour 2 ITV
Hot-blooded Kitty causes an incident at the parade

His boss, DI Thursday, looks on with fatherly concern as the younger man concocts various theories connecting the death with the disappearance of a young woman. Meanwhile, the chief superintendent – played by Anton Lesser, who’s cornered the market in smarmy arrogance in every drama from Game of Thrones to Garrow’s Law – just wants Endeavour to be put on traffic duty till he turns 45.

Puzzles and beauty contests

Writer Russell Lewis throws in a puzzle for Endeavour – a jotting on a note by the dead man’s bed – and a glimpse at the burgeoning world of celebrity in Sixties Britain, with beauty pageants and dodgy agents looking to promote ingenues into stars worthy of a supermarket opening or photo shoot.

‘Simon Dee asked me if I liked his shirt,’ one character says. ‘You can’t put a price on that.’

What makes Endeavour such a success? Shaun Evans and Roger Allam are likeable performers playing an interesting duo of mentor and successor, but whose relationship is not always smooth-going. The stories are also full of evocative detail and look splendid.

Endeavour is interesting because the character evolves

SHAUN EVANS as Endeavour.
A battered Endeavour questions a witness

And there is the enjoyment in unravelling the overarching mystery – Endeavour’s character. Russell Lewis drops hints in every tale about how Morse got to be the man audiences loved when played by John Thaw. In the last season we witnessed his cold relationship with his dad.

Here, aficionados will spot a bumptious academic Thaw encountered in 1991, but who is seen in this opener as a younger man, who Endeavour puts firmly in his place in a nice scene.

And Endeavour evolves (unlike Lewis). During this series he starts off a bit of a mess, drinking too much, unsure if he is right for the police. That changes by the final film, Neverland – and there are revelations about Thursday to come. Endeavour is a young man with future.

Cast: Shaun Evans Endeavour, Roger Allam DI Fred Thursday, Anton Lesser Ch Supt Reginald Bright, Sean Rigby PC Strange, Jack Laskey DS Peter Jakes, James Bradshaw Dr Max Debryn, Abigail Thaw Dorothea Frazil, Caroline O’Neill Joan Thursday

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Endeavour series 2 – punch-ups and romance await

ITV had a press launch for series two of Endeavour yesterday, and if the opening film is anything to go by the drama gets better as it goes along and will pack a few fascinating new storylines.

There will be four two-hour films in the series, starting with Trove, which picks up four months after the traumatic events for Endeavour at the end of the last series.

The year is now 1966 and Endeavour is immediately, and perhaps too quickly, pitched into a major case, featuring a young woman’s disappearance and a murder. It’s a beautifully produced film, made all the more sombre by the use of Brahms’s Ein deutches Requiem, but this being the Sixties, My Boy Lollipop also pops up.

Shaun Evans – ‘Endeavour is evolving’

Shaun Evans was at the launch to talk about the new series and said, ‘At the beginning Endeavour is thinking, Is this the right place for me, am I in the right job? The great thing is that Endeavour is evolving.’

And Roger Allam, who plays Endeavour’s detective boss Thursday, added, ‘This series starts with Endevour coming back to Cowley station having been wounded and also having had the death of his father at the end of the last series. So I think there’s concern on Thursday’s part about whether he’s going to be as sharp and imaginative as he was. Here was someone who had a particular way of working that wasn’t usual in the police, but that was a very good ability to have in your police station, that imagination and intelligence. So his concern whether Endeavour will get back to that.’

Endeavour takes a lot of physical punishment in the opener, and Thursday is revealed to be handy with his fists. On the bright side for Endeavour, it appears love could be in the air.

World Cup and romance

England’s World Cup Final will form the backdrop to one story, and there are going to be major developments between Endeavour and Thursday.

The series writer, Russell Lewis, said, ‘What we didn’t want to do was let it fall into too comfortable a relationship that became predictable week in, week out. We didn’t want them rubbing along like an old married couple, so they’re constantly finding things out about each other.’

When questioned about Endeavour’s faltering romantic record, Russell suggested his bookishness may have given him too idealised an expectation of love. Roger Allam speculated on the Endeavour’s idea of the perfect dat – ‘It’s obvious. They stay in reading Henry James aloud, listening to Tannhäuser. It’s the perfect romantic evening.’

The making of Morse

It’s certainly been a near perfect re-imagining of author Colin Dexter’s Morse. What was intended to be a one-off to celebrate Inspector Morse‘s 25th anniversary in 2012, quickly became a runaway ratings success for ITV.

Russell Lewis told me, ‘The reaction from the audience just knocked us all sideways. Morse himself is such a well-loved character that they wanted to see more.

‘What we didn’t want to do was present him as a 45-year-old bloke in a 25-year-old skin and bones. He shouldn’t be as world-weary as he becomes. He’s taken one or two knocks already but the next 20 years would add to that. What our stories were about was the making of Morse.’

The launch date of the new series is yet to be announced.

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Endeavour ITV, with Shaun Evans, Roger Allam PREVIEW

Jakes (Jack Laskey), Morse (Shaun Evans), Bright (Anton Lesser), Thursday (Roger Allam) in ITV's Endeavour
Jakes, Morse, Bright and Thursday in Endeavour. Pic: ITV

Rating: ★★★★

ITV: Sunday, 14 April, 8pm

Story: Margaret Bell, a young woman with a heart condition, is found dead. DC Endeavour Morse suspects that the death may not be down to natural causes, suspicions that bring the novice detective into conflict with his superiors.

Colin Dexter and ITV created one of the UK’s most popular fictional detectives in Inspector Morse and you can almost hear the intake of breath among viewers as this first prequel series starring Shaun Evans approaches.

A good pilot for Endeavour went out in January last year, immediately won an audience of 6.5 million and the series of four films was quickly commissioned. So, how good is Girl, the opening story?

Well, it blows Lewis away. Kevin Whately’s sequel is still popular enough but has fallen into a rut as a rather uneventful procedural with flat characters.

‘Queer fish, stand-offish, rude’
Endeavour is energised with protagonists who don’t just go round saying, ‘Where were you on the night of the 14th?’ Writer Russell Lewis uses his two-hour slot to flesh out the characters, particularly Morse, creating a precocious detective not much liked by his colleagues but mentored by DI Fred Thursday, played again by the excellent Roger Allam.

As PC Strange tells Morse, the boys think he’s a ‘queer fish, stand-offish, rude’.

A fine new addition to the ensemble is Anton Lesser, giving us yet another snake-like character, this time Chief Superintendent Bright (ironically named, no doubt), who is a stickler for plodding procedure and who feels Thursday has promoted Morse above his station. Bright is the kind of boss we’ve all encountered – an unoriginal thinker, bit of poser with his foreign phrases (‘tabula rasa’ etc), and a snob who refuses to believe Morse’s theories, such as his suggestion that a vicar may have been at the scene of a murder.

A coded brainteaser for Morse
Bright feels Morse should be investigating a series of gas meter thefts, which is where we meet him as the episode opens. However, when a young woman, Margaret Bell, who has a heart condition, is found dead, Morse starts to have suspicions that it may not have been down to natural causes.

He is further perturbed when the partner of Margaret Bell’s GP is shot dead. A bike found at the scene is, according to the young detective’s Holmesian deductions, probably the property of a left-handed vicar. Pillar of society Chief Superintendent Bright orders Thursday to eliminate known criminals before bothering the clergy.

But Morse traces the vicar, who on learning that the detective was in the signal corp and is skilled at cryptic puzzles, gives him a coded brainteaser to mull over. Morse’s digging soon puts him on a crash course with Thursday and Bright.

Shaun Evans, Roger Allam and Anton Lesser
It’s a convoluted mystery, involving an eminent physicist, the dead doctor’s troubled sister-in-law, Pamela, and a local trade in amphetamines. The sentimental obsession of these period dramas – here we get all the vintage buses, 10 shilling postal orders, and ‘something for the weekend’ banter from a barber – gets cloying after a while.

But Endeavour works on the strength of the drama between the principle characters and the performances of Shaun Evans – excellent as the cussed, dogged detective – Roger Allam and Anton Lesser. Morse’s battle to prove himself against all his doubters, finally deciphering the vicar’s clue at the end, is full of intrigue and drama, and gets Endeavour off a great start.

Cast: Shaun Evans Endeavour Morse, Roger Allam DI Fred Thursday, Anton Lesser Chief Superintendent Bright, Jack Laskey DS Peter Jakes, Sean Rigby PC Jim Strange, James Bradshaw Dr Max DeBryn, Mark Bazeley Dr Bill Prentice, Luke Allen-Gale Derek Clark, Albert Welling Wallace Clark, Olivia Grant Helen Cartwright, Sophie Stuckey Pamela Walters, Jonathan Guy Lewis Rev Monkford, Jonathan Hyde Sir Edmund Sloan

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Endeavour with Shaun Evans PREVIEW

Shaun Evans as Endeavour Morse. Pics: ITV

Rating ★★★★½

ITV1, Monday, 2 January, 9pm

Story: 1965. A schoolgirl is missing in Oxford. A young detective constable is drafted in from the anonymous Midlands new town where he is stationed to help with the investigation because he knows the Oxford area. It is a case that will shape Endeavour Morse’s life and career.

He only ever used to be known as Morse, the detective finally revealing his christian name after Inspector Morse had been on air for 10 years in 1997. Now as everyone knows, Morse was named after Captain Cook’s ship HMS Endeavour and the moniker can be plastered all over this impressive two-hour prequel.

John Thaw

The much-loved original, which ran for 33 episodes from 1987-2000, starred John Thaw as Morse and Kevin Whately as his sidekick, Lewis, setting the standard for UK police procedurals. Thaw died relatively young at 60 in 2002, and while Lewis, of course, is still with us, the temptation to resurrect Morse somehow was too good to let slip away.

Shaun Evans and Roger Allam
This much anticipated new mystery is a scandal on a suitably large scale, involving bent cops, murder and a corrupt government minister. The cast – including Shaun Evans as Morse and Roger Allam as his boss/mentor DI Fred Thursday – are actors who bring depth to the lead roles, and the period setting is understated. And for Morse fans, the hero’s background is fleshed out well.

The young Endeavour is called on to assist in an investigation into the disappearance of 15-year-old schoolgirl because he is familiar with Oxford, where he did Greats but didn’t finish his degree. DS Arthur Lott makes it clear to Morse and his fellow draftees that they are there to ‘take up the slack’, do the grunt work, and leave the detecting to him and Thursday.

Morse and Thursday

But Morse immediately stands out as a serious-minded detective with a questioning nature – which sets him at odds with Lott. It is Morse who works out that the missing teenager had a lover who was communicating with her through crosswords in the local paper. ‘Codswallop,’ says Lott, but Morse is proved right.

Colin Dexter

Abigail Thaw

Fans will appreciated the crossword touch, which would also appeal to the creator of Morse and crossword lover Colin Dexter, now 81, who makes a Hitchcockian cameo in a pub garden. The drama is actually written by Russell Lewis, who has done a good job of embellishing the Morse story.

We learn how Morse got his taste for beer, classical music and the famous maroon Jag. Shaun Evans captures much of the character’s melancholia, particularly when the case blows up in his face and he develops an infatuation for the opera singer wife of a suspect.

John Thaw’s daughter Abigail
The production has so much of the original’s DNA in its make-up that several of the behind-camera crew had also worked on Inspector Morse, and there is even a role for John Thaw’s daughter, Abigail, who plays an employee of the local paper.

Scandalous parties and cover-ups

What begins as a missing person inquiry snowballs into a murder, a suicide and a scandal in which high-level politicians and policemen are attending sex parties with under-age girls. The story has a lot more grit to it than many of the originals or Lewis, and less of the chocolate-box obsession with Oxford spires and quadrangles.

Charlie Creed-Miles is the nasty spiv
Roger Allam is warmly authoritative as Thursday, the ex-soldier and solid copper who is willing to bend the rules to slap down spivs such as Teddy Samuels (Charlie Creed-Miles) and dodgy cops such as Arthur Lott.

It’s a sharp and inspiring tribute to Morse on the 25th anniversary of its very first episode. Surely, a series will follow.

Cast: Shaun Evans Endeavour, Roger Allam DI Fred Thursday, Flora Montgomery Rosalind Stromming, Harry Kershaw Miles Percival, Charlie Creed-Miles Teddy Samuels, Danny Webb DS Arthur Lott, Jack Ashton DC Ian McLeash, Richard Lintern Dr Rowan Stromming, Patrick Malahide Richard Lovell, John Light Dempsey, Abigail Thaw Dorothea Frazil, Michael Matus Brian St Clair, Emma Stansfield Sharon Vellie, James Bradshaw Dr Max De Bryn, Terence Harvey DCS Crisp

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